Bruges Places of Interest

Over the coming months there will be four blog posts for each city on the Davis High School Baroque Ensemble’s 2020 England-France Tour tour: Place of Interest; Concert Venue; Music; History of the city. This week’s post, the ninth of the series, is on places of interest in Bruges.

Canals, and 13th century Belfry tower

Canals, and 13th century Belfry tower

The third concert of the tour will be in Bruges, Belgium — one of the most delightful cities in Europe. I first visited at age 13 on a school trip, and later on numerous occasions as a musician performing in the Flanders Festival as a member of The English Concert, and Academy of Ancient Music. The MAfestival Brugge, hosts an internationally renowned festival of early music and historically informed performances each summer, which includes a three-year cycle of competitions for harpsichord, organ, pianoforte and other period instruments, vocals, and baroque ensembles.

The medieval center of the city, sometimes known as ‘Venice of the North’, is compact, and it is very easy to stroll through the squares, along the canals, and over the many bridges, to places of interest. A boat trip along the canals would also be a great experience. Bruges is less than 1 hour by train from Brussels, and 25 minutes from the coastal towns Blankenberge, Knokke, and Zeebrugge.

Market Square - Markt

Market Square – Markt

Market Square – Markt, is in the historic centre of Bruges and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At one end of the Markt is the city’s most famous landmark – the 13th century Belfry – Belfort van Brugge, which has a 47-bell carillon at the top of the 272ft. tower. The city still employs a full-time carillonneur, who gives free concerts on a regular basis.

Madonna & Child, Michelangelo

Madonna & Child, Michelangelo

The Church of Our Lady – Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk, contains Michelangelo’s Madonna & Child, c.1504, which shares similarities with his earlier ‘Pieta’ in St. Peter’s, Rome. Jesus stands upright only loosely restrained by Mary’s left hand, and appears to be about to step away from his mother. Mary does not cling to her son or even look at him, but gazes down and away. The work is notable in that it was the only sculpture by Michelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime.

Beguinage - Begijnhof Brugge

Beguinage – Begijnhof Brugge

The Beguinage – Begijnhof Brugge, founded c.1244, was originally a convent, later becoming a home for lay religious women who lived in community without taking vows or retiring from the world. The complex includes a gothic beguinage church, and thirty white painted houses dating from the late 16th century. The first Beguine house, next to the entrance, is furnished as a museum, and the exhibition includes paintings, 17th and 18th century furniture, and lacework – for which the city is famous.

Other Places of Interest:

  • Groeninge Museum has an important collection of Flemish art, including 15th century paintings by Jan Van Eyck, and Hans Memling.
  • Gruuthuse Museum — the early 15th century building includes a display of both the interior of a house of a rich family as it would have been in the late Middle Ages, and a collection of everyday tools and utensils. On display are furniture, bobbin lace, objects in gold and silver, weapons, musical instruments, and ceramics.
  • Folklore Museum — Museum voor Volkskunde.A collection of renovated 17th century, single room dwellings. Displays include a classroom, millinery, pharmacy, confectionery shop, grocery shop, and bedroom interior; with a collection of Bruges lace on the upper floor.
  • Old Saint John’s Hospital — Sint Jansspitaal, is located next to the Church of Our Lady and the Bonifacius Bridge, and contains some of Europe’s oldest surviving hospital buildings. The hospital grew during the Middle Ages and was a place where sick pilgrims and travellers were cared for. The site was later expanded with the building of a monastery and convent.
  • Holy Savior Cathedral — Sint-Salvatorskathedraal. The construction of the present Gothic church started in 1250, and took nearly a century to complete. The neo-Romanesque tower was added c.1840. The pipe organ of the cathedral was originally built in the early 18th century, and subsequently expanded in the 20th century.
  • Choco-Story — Chocolate Museum is located in the sixteenth-century “Huis de Crone” building in central Bruges. Visitors can watch chocolate being made, and there is a section of the museum is dedicated to the health benefits of chocolate – considered by many to be the best chocolate in the world.
  • Bruges Beer Experience — Beer Museum – visitors learn about beer history, sample ingredients, & taste brews of varied styles.
  • Diksmuids Boterhuis — Excellent cheese shop & Deli, Geldmuntstraat 23
  • Walking tour of Bruges — Self guided:
(best to cut the sound)


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